Scenes from around Australia illustrate aircraft safety procedures. The brace position demonstration made my wife laugh out loud. Josephine Falls looks like fun. And that's an impressive beard at Lefroy Flats.
How to produce Australian vowels: The long "O" sound amuses me. Women particularly seem to draw it out -- even radio announcers.
In 1908, just seven years after Australia's federation, a young woman named Dorothea Mackellar wrote a tribute to her homeland. The poem, "My Country," is sometimes called by the first line of its second verse, the beginning of the poem proper after a prefatory stanza.
I love a sunburnt country, A land of sweeping plains, Of ragged mountain ranges, Of droughts and flooding rains. I love her far horizons, I love her jewel-sea, Her beauty and her terror - The wide brown land for me!
Here is audio of the poet herself reciting her work, many years later, accompanied by photos of Australia that illustrate "sapphire-misted mountains," "pitiless blue sky," "jewel sea" -- this "wilful, lavish land."
Mackellar was a third-generation Australian, whose grandparents arrived from Scotland in 1839. Her official website describes the sentiment that produced this poem.
The first draft of My Country was written in England when Miss. Mackellar was feeling homesick for Australia. Dorothea Mackellar wanted the verse to express her deep and true love for her country. It was re-written several times before a satisfactory completion.
She resented the tendency of acquaintances in her youth to discredit Australia, and to refer to England as 'Home'. As a young girl Dorothea was clearly aware of the variety and beauty presented by the Australian landscape. The majority of her poetry has taken its imagery from her love of the natural Australian scenery. The original title for "My Country" was "Core of My Heart", and was the title used when the poem was first published in 1908, in the London Spectator Magazine.
Here is a choral setting of the poem:
The Wall Street Journal editorial reports that France's High Audiovisual Council (which sounds like nerds with tape on their glasses wielding gavels) has banned "a television commercial showing happy children with Down Syndrome."
Produced to commemorate World Down Syndrome Day, the commercial showed several cheerful children with DS addressing a mother considering abortion. "Dear future mom," says one, "don't be afraid." "Your child will be able to do many things," says another. "He'll be able to hug you." "He'll be able to run toward you." "He'll be able to speak and tell you he loves you."
France's High Audiovisual Council removed the commercial from air earlier this year, and in November the Council of State, the country's highest administrative court, upheld the ban, since the clip could "disturb the conscience" of French women who had aborted DS fetuses.
Advocates say the move hampers efforts to reverse the high rate of DS terminations. Ninety-six percent of DS pregnancies are terminated in France, according to the pro-life Jerome Lejeune Foundation, which sought to overturn the ban. Setting aside the abortion politics, the Council's reasoning is so broad that potentially any TV advocacy could be chilled.
Here's the ad:
This is amazing on several levels. Will they ban ads encouraging saving for retirement because they might disturb the consciences of people who chose to spend instead of saving?
The whole point of advertising is to disturb the viewer's contentment so that he'll spend money on your product.
How does a positive social or political change occur unless the consciences of citizens are disturbed as they are confronted with the damage caused by the status quo?
Of course, I wouldn't expect to see the High A/V Council apply this rule to an ad in any realm of debate beyond these two: sex and Islam and the consequences of each. The abortion industry is keen to suppress any information, no matter how innocuous or how winsomely presented, that might give a prospective abortion client second thoughts. Pro-life advocates have adjusted to avoid unnecessary offense, eschewing bloody photos of aborted fetuses, from which most people will avert their eyes. But the pro-aborts object even to images of healthy babies in utero, or, in this case, happy, healthy children -- any image that could undermine the fears and ignorance on which they prey.
This decision treats French citizens as children who need to be protected against the stirrings of their own consciences, so that they will persist in selfish, infantile behavior and remain dependent on the paternal state.
Here is the press release from Jerome Lejeune Foundation (en Francais) after the decision by the High Audiovisual Council.
In October 2015, the Jerome Lejeune Foundation challenged a Charlie Hebdo cover that depicted a disfavored politician, Nadine Morano, as a Down Syndrome baby. The cover called Morano "la fille cachée trisomique de de Gaulle" -- "the hidden trisomic daughter of De Gaulle." Jean Marie Le Méné, head of the foundation, writes that Charlie Hebdo is guilty of "chromosomal racism." He notes the discrimination faced by Down Syndrome children, even before birth, and reminds that people with Down Syndrome used to be called "mongoloid".
"Trisomique" refers to Charles de Gaulle's daughter Anne, who had Down Syndrome, but who was not hidden from the public. De Gaulle, the leader of the French resistance during World War II and monumental post-war president, said of his daughter, "This child also came as a grace, she helped me get over all the failures, get past any man, see further." Anne died in 1948 at the age of 20. Anne saved her father's life in 1962, when the frame of the photo he carried of her deflected an assassin's bullet.
So, what happens on campuses does not stay on campuses. There, in many nations, sensitivity bureaucracies have been enforcing the relatively new entitlement to be shielded from whatever might disturb, even inappropriate jokes. And now this rapidly metastasizing right has come to this: A video that accurately communicates a truthful proposition -- that Down syndrome people can be happy and give happiness -- should be suppressed because some people might become ambivalent, or morally queasy, about having chosen to extinguish such lives because . . .
This is why the video giving facts about Down syndrome people is so subversive of the flaccid consensus among those who say aborting a baby is of no more moral significance than removing a tumor from a stomach. Pictures persuade. Today's improved prenatal sonograms make graphic the fact that the moving fingers and beating heart are not mere "fetal material." They are a baby. Toymaker Fisher-Price, children's apparel manufacturer OshKosh, McDonald's and Target have featured Down syndrome children in ads that the French court would probably ban from television.
The court has said, in effect, that the lives of Down syndrome people -- and by inescapable implication, the lives of many other disabled people -- matter less than the serenity of people who have acted on one or more of three vicious principles: That the lives of the disabled are not worth living. Or that the lives of the disabled are of negligible value next to the desire of parents to have a child who has no special, meaning inconvenient, needs. Or that government should suppress the voices of Down syndrome children in order to guarantee other people's right not to be disturbed by reminders that they have made lethal choices on the basis of one or both of the first two inappropriate principles.
Here's a direct link to the high court ruling, which quotes the High A/V Club ruling:
« susceptible de troubler en conscience des femmes qui, dans le respect de la loi, avaient fait des choix de vie personnelle différents »
If you'd like to see where everything settled out after all the votes were counted, The Green Papers is the most meticulous online resource for detailed, nitty-gritty election information. There you will be able to see a comprehensive popular vote total, including every write-in vote tabulated across the nation. (David Limbaugh, a columnist and author, younger brother of the radio talk show host, received 6 write-in votes. Bernie Sanders received 1, in California.)
The proprietor of the site, Richard E. Berg-Andersson, wrote an analysis back in 2001 about possible approaches to reform or abolish the Electoral College.
Happy election day! Enjoy your freedom to vote now, before Hillary ships you to a concentration camp or Donald abolishes elections and renames himself Caligula II.
Polls in Oklahoma are open until 7:00 p.m. If you need help finding your polling place, if you'd like to study a sample ballot before you go, the Oklahoma State Election Board has a one-stop-shop online voter tool. Put in your name and date of birth, and they'll look you up in the database, find your polling place and show you a photo of it and a map, will let you see a printable sample ballot, and, if you're voting absentee, it will show you when your ballot arrived at your county election board.
OSEB will have live results available after 7 p.m. Keep in mind that absentee ballots are counted first at the county election board, and then individual precincts bring their scanning ballot boxes to the county election board for processing. Candidates and news outlets who send runners to the precincts to read results posted on the door will have results more quickly than OSEB.
OSEB also has this very handy list of every candidate and every proposition on the 2016 Oklahoma ballot, arranged by county.
Here's my printable cheat sheet for the election.
My thoughts on specific races and questions:
- Summary of Oklahoma 2016 state questions with links to discussion of each specific question
- Oklahoma 2016 judicial retention
- Tulsa County 2016 electionsTulsa City Council 2016 elections
- Oklahoma 2016 presidential electors
- Sen. James Lankford makes the case for SQ 790.
Many thanks to the sponsors and supporters of BatesLine who made this year's election coverage possible.
All right, Bob, how 'bout a little music to keep the people happy! Take it away, Leon!
"There'll be cheerin' and hootin' and some friendly shootin' just to keep the spirit of this big occasion."
Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys perform "Election Day" by Cindy Walker in the movie Wyoming Hurricane, starring Russell Hayden. Leon McAuliffe on vocals; Cotton Thompson, Bob Wills, and Jesse Ashlock on fiddle, Junior Barnard on guitar, Luke Wills on bass. And from the same movie, here's Cotton Thompson to deliver Cindy Walker's message for many of our candidates:
I hear you talkin', yes, I do,
But your talk-talk-talkin' don't ring true,
I'm listenin' politely, too,
But I don't b'lieve a word you say.
I hear you talkin', tellin' lies,
I can see it in those great big eyes.
I hear you talkin' wise,
But I don't b'lieve a word you say.
You say that I'm your honey-love,
That I'm all you're thinkin' of,
I hear you talkin', dove,
But you ain't been foolin' me.
I almost left the top line of my ballot blank.
When I was filling out my absentee ballot, I left the presidential race until the last. Neither Donald Trump nor Hillary Clinton nor Gary Johnson -- our only three choices in Oklahoma -- are fit to serve as president of the United States. Trump says some things that are pleasing to conservative ears, but his livelihood was built on saying one thing to close a deal and then doing another, leaving him sitting pretty and his business partners in the lurch. Clinton is utterly venal and corrupt, selling American foreign policy to the highest bidder, with the money laundered through the family's "foundation," and setting up a private email server, putting American secrets at risk, in order to hide her corruption from the reach of open-records laws. Johnson is a buffoon, a fake libertarian who sees no problem with the State punishing small-business owners who wish to run their businesses in accordance with the understanding of marriage that was near-universal just a decade ago. I'm frightened by how triumphant Trump or victorious Clinton might use their new power to punish their adversaries; both are vengeful and egotistical. I'm disturbed by the willingness of many conservatives to shift their positions and lower their standards in order to justify their support for Trump -- not merely holding their noses and voting for him, which is understandable, but enthusiastically embracing him.
I had pondered voting for Johnson anyway, as a protest vote, but Josh Lewis, writing at SavingElephantsBlog.com, talked me out of it, pointing out that giving the Libertarian Party, particularly in its current state, a permanent foothold in Oklahoma will only cause more problems for electing conservatives:
Suffice it to say for now, I am a conservative and recognize libertarianism as a competing ideology. A vote for Gary Johnson is a vote that will ultimately strengthen the libertarian brand. If you're an ideological libertarian this makes sense. But if you're only casting a "protest vote" it may have dangerous unintended consequences.
So I was going to leave the ballot bank, but as I stared at the space on the ballot, I looked at the three lists of seven names under the names of the presidential and vice presidential nominees:
- Republican: David Oldham, Teresa Turner, Mark Thomas, Bobby Cleveland, Lauree Elizabeth Marshall, Charles W. Potts, George W. Wiland, Jr.
- Libertarian: Erin Adams, Mikel Dillon, Joel Britt Dixon, Rex L Lawhorn, Ephriam Zachary Knight, Craig A. Dawkins, Mark C. DeShazo.
- Democrat: Marq Lewis, Bill John Baker, Mark Hammons, Betty McElderry, W. A. Drew Edmondson, Jeannie McDaniel, Rhonda Walters.
These are the people we're voting for today: One set of seven who will meet in Oklahoma City in December and cast the only votes any Oklahoman will cast for President and Vice President of the United States.
I'm under no illusions: Each of these people were selected by district and state conventions because of their loyalty to their party. Barring some unforeseen catastrophe, they will be voting for the names above theirs on the ballot, which will lead either to a Trump-flavored catastrophe or a Clinton-flavored catastrophe.
But what if no candidate appears to have won a majority of electoral votes? What if Utah goes for Evan McMillan, enough to hold Clinton and Trump short of 270? What if there finally emerges a scandal serious enough to chase Donald or Hillary into exile in Irian Jaya? What if (heaven forbid) one or both of the aged main-party candidates suffers a debilitating accident or health emergency? Would it still make no difference which set of seven electors are chosen by Oklahoma voters?
Under those unlikely circumstances, it would make a great deal of difference. I know many of the people running for elector, and I would trust David Oldham, Bobby Cleveland, and George Wiland to make a decision in the best interest of the nation. I would not trust Craig Dawkins, or Jeannie McDaniel, or Drew Edmondson, the former Ayatollah General.
It's taken me more time to describe my thought process than it took me to come to that conclusion. I had to decide to leave the race blank or mark it, seal up the ballot, get the affidavit notarized, mail it, and get on with trip preparations. I voted for George, David, Bobby, Mark, Teresa, Lauree, and Charles.
There are three contested county offices on the Tulsa County ballot. Republican Josh Turley seeks to defeat incumbent Democrat Commissioner Karen Keith in County Commission District 2. Republican Don Newberry and Democrat John R. Andrew are vying for the Court Clerk position, left open by the retirement of Sally Howe Smith. Republican Sheriff Vic Regalado and Democrat Rex Berry are in a rematch of the April special election to replace Stanley Glanz.
A recent, seemingly unrelated news item raised an issue that should be considered by Tulsa County voters tomorrow. State bond adviser Jim Joseph and State Auditor and Inspector Gary Jones spoke out against the widespread practice of school districts waiving competitive bids for bond issues.
Oklahoma school districts are spending millions of taxpayers' dollars every year by paying high fees for financial advisers, bond counsel and underwriters, says Jim Joseph, the state's bond adviser.
Many school districts continue to do the same thing year after year, while stubbornly refusing to use cost-saving competitive selection measures, he said.
"It's like picking a roofer right after a storm because he's the first guy who came to your door," Joseph said. "You're not going to get a deal, that's for sure."
State Auditor Gary Jones agreed school boards could save Oklahoma taxpayers money by obtaining competitive quotes.
"There could be tens of millions of dollars saved over a short period of time," Jones said.
Joseph went on to compare the massive fees paid by school districts to bond counsel and financial advisers, often a percentage of the bond issue, with the smaller amounts state agencies paid for much larger bond issue. Several were listed; here's one example:
For example, Midwest City-Del City Public Schools did a $72.62 million bond issue in 2012 without competitive bids. It paid the Floyd Law Firm of Norman $363,100 for serving as bond counsel and allowed Stephen H. McDonald & Associates and BOSC Inc., a subsidiary of BOK Financial Corporation, to equally split $508,340 for serving as co-financial advisers, records show.
Compare that with a $310.48 million bond issue by the Grand River Dam Authority that was done in 2014 through a competitive process. The state paid a $114,000 bond counsel fee and a $133,448 financial adviser fee.
Although the Grand River Dam Authority bond issue was more than four times as large as the Midwest City-Del City school bond issue, the school district paid more than triple the amount in bond counsel and financial adviser fees, records show.
Joseph pointed out that bond counsel, underwriter, and financial advisers often each take 1% of the bond issue as their fee, which Joseph says "makes no sense at all. It doesn't take any more work to do a $20 million issue than a $10 million issue for the bond counsel and financial adviser, but the fee is twice as high, if payment is on a percentage basis."
What does this have to do with Tulsa County? Joseph noted that the firm of Hilborne & Weidman was frequently listed as bond counsel for these competition-waived bond issues. Hilborne & Weidman was also one of two bond counsel firms selected in 2003 by the Tulsa County commissioners (acting as the Tulsa County Industrial Authority) for the Vision 2025 revenue bonds, a massive bond issue against up to all 13 years of the new sales tax. I urged at the time that Tulsa County put all Vision 2025 bond-related contracts up for competitive bid, as commissioners haggled publicly over which firms would get a piece of the action, but they waived competitive bidding and split the baby, giving each favored firm half of the business.
Over the last 13 years, there's been a complete turnover on the County Commission, but the tradition of waiving competitive bidding has persisted. Here's one example from May 26, 2009, in Karen Keith's first year as a commissioner ($110 million in bonds), another from February 1, 2010.
On May 23, 2016, the commissioners, including Karen Keith, voted unanimously to waive competitive bidding on indebtedness, but neither the minutes nor the agenda explain the amount or nature of the indebtedness. Given the proximity to the April 2016 Vision Tulsa vote, my guess is that the vote was on the revenue bonds pledged against that new 15-year sales tax stream.
How many more projects might have been built if Vision 2025 bonds had been competitively bid? Could we have had a new juvenile justice facility without being asked for more tax dollars in two separate elections? (And it still hasn't been built! Karen Keith has been in office eight years, and we're still waiting.)
Given the size of these bond issues, even a 1% fee would be a huge amount for a small firm. The temptation to corruption would be immense. Think of the money the former Skiatook superintendent got in kickbacks from the janitorial supply company. That would be chump change compared to even a small cut of 1% of a $500 million bond issue.
Oklahoma taxpayers need legislation to require competitive bidding on bonds and to require counties, school districts, and cities -- and their associated Title 60 trusts -- to use the state bond adviser rather than hiring their own favored exclusive firms. Until we get that legislation, we need county officials who will support transparency and fiscal prudence. Josh Turley and Don Newberry, both good men with long years' experience as county employees, will provide that kind of leadership, and I hope Tulsa County voters elect them both.
As for the sheriff's race, I've voiced my concern with the pattern of funding Regalado received in the special election primary and even more concern with the way he responded to the charges. He seems to have settled down and done a reasonable job of setting TCSO on a better course, away from last year's scandals. Rex Berry is way out in left field; we don't need someone like him as sheriff. I'm voting for Regalado.
Three Tulsa City Council seats made it to the general election. As the current City Council has been a complete disaster, backing a massive increase in the permanent sales tax, shutting down Riverside Drive for two years, and imposing their radical left-wing theories of gender and sexuality on the property owners of our city, I don't want any of them to be re-elected.
I was sad to see Jack Henderson work against the interests of District 1 by backing the regressive sales tax for dams in the Arkansas River. Burdening Tulsa's poorest neighborhoods with higher taxes so residents of our wealthier neighborhoods can look at water in the river is unjust, and the Jack Henderson I thought I knew used to understand that. Vanessa Hall-Harper does understand that. She stood against the dam sales tax. While I would never expect a conservative to win District 1, we can at least hope for a city councilor who wants to help her constituents to conserve their own hard-earned funds.
Jeannie Cue, the incumbent in District 2, has been a big disappointment for the aforementioned reasons. But the only thing I've been able to find out about her opponent, Aaron Bisogno, is that he really loves Star Wars. No endorsement in District.
In District 9, Ben Kimbro has the endorsement of the Tulsa Regional Chamber and a bunch of current city councilors. Clearly, we need someone different.
Eric McCray owns a small heat and air company, and he wants to see the reopening of Riverside Drive fast-tracked. He also has some sensible thoughts on the blighted sections of District 9:
Shutting down Riverside for 2 years with no end in sight is unacceptable.
We can make opening Riverside for commuters a priority and fast track the reopening date.
Tulsa commuters should not have to endure multiple, simultaneous road projects which shut down traffic all over the city. We should not see roads shut down with nobody present working on the projects. Crews should focus on a project 24/7 until it is completed and then move to the next. There is a management issue with the roads in Tulsa, and I aim to fix it.
Government assistance programs tend to fund the crime problem in our District. If you don't have to work for your food or housing, you likely have the time and entitlement mentality to commit crime. We have had one of the highest crime spots in all of Tulsa at 61st and Peoria. It is no coincidence that it is located near the swath of government assistance housing. It is not merely a poverty problem--I will work with law enforcement officials, community leaders, and business owners to determine the best way to deter crime from our District while promoting and bringing business to District 9. Let's change the reputation on this side of town.
Two State Supreme Court justices, two judges on the Court of Criminal Appeals, and three judges on the Court of Civil Appeals are before the voters for retention. If any of the judges get more no votes than yes votes, he or she will be out of office, and a replacement will be appointed by the usual process.
Ordinarily, a third Supreme Court seat would be on the ballot, but Justice Steven Taylor announced his retirement at the end of the year. There's no need to vote on retaining someone who is stepping down.
In going back through some controversial decisions over the last few years, I find a mixed record. Justice Douglas Combs was alone in rightly parsing law and precedent regarding the Ten Commandments monument, understanding that something can be religious without being sectarian, and noting that his colleagues rejected precedent in Meyer v. Oklahoma City (a 50-foot cross on the State Fairgrounds, lit by city-funded lights) without explicitly overturning it.
Justices James Winchester and Taylor were the only ones to see the problem with the State Supreme Court crossing a constitutional boundary to get involved in a criminal matter in the Clayton Lockett botched-execution case. (In Oklahoma's split appellate system, criminal appeals go to the Court of Criminal Appeals, but no further; civil appeals go to a panel of the Court of Civil Appeals, from which a decision may be appealed to the State Supreme Court.) Winchester also joined Taylor in correctly labelling SQ 779 as logrolling in violation of Article XXIV, Section 1, of the Constitution of Oklahoma and in approving the clear ballot titles written by the Attorney General for SQ 780 and 781. Justice Combs was on the wrong side of these decisions. In my browsing through recent decisions, I found that often Winchester stood with Taylor on the right, but minority, side of an issue.
But Justice Winchester was the lone dissenter (without explanation) from a decision that affirmed that a county assessor could hire legal representation of his choosing in the pursuit of his duties.
Tony Lauinger of Oklahomans for Life notes the Supreme Court justices' hostility to pro-life laws, interpreting the "right" to an abortion much more expansively than the federal courts:
Regarding the Retention Ballot for Oklahoma Supreme Court justices, please note that the members of the Oklahoma Supreme Court - including those on the Retention Ballot - have repeatedly, arbitrarily, relentlessly handed down pro-abortion rulings. They even killed a pro-life law which would have promoted ultrasounds, even though a federal appeals court upheld a very similar law from Texas. A mother who sees an ultrasound of her baby is much less likely to have an abortion. Babies are dying every day in Oklahoma because the state Supreme Court struck down this law.
Our state Supreme Court is so notoriously pro-abortion that when the abortion industry challenges a pro-life law, they file suit in state court rather than federal court, because our Oklahoma Supreme Court is more pro-abortion than the federal courts.
The unanimous 9-0 decision by the court to block SQ 782, a proposed amendment to the Oklahoma Constitution banning abortion, created a chicken-and-egg problem. The state supremes cited Planned Parenthood v. Casey, saying that the U. S. Supreme Court's ruling is definitive until they overturn it. But SCOTUS won't overturn a ruling until a case reaches it, and that can't happen until a state passes a law in contradiction to it, the state enforces it, someone sues, and the case percolates up the Federal court hierarchy. Burns v. Cline, 2016 OK 99, is another example of the problem. Treating SCOTUS, and not the Constitution itself, sovereign is reason enough to boot out every single state justice.
Among the appellate judges up for retention, Judge Tom Thornbrugh was "called up" on the SQ 779 logrolling case to fill the shoes of a Supreme Court justice who had to recuse. Thornbrugh took the wrong position, voting with the majority that turned a blind eye to the proposition's obvious violation of the single-subject rule.
Of the judges on the retention ballot, Winchester was appointed by Rep. Gov. Frank Keating; Combs, Smith, and Fischer were appointed by Dem. Gov. Brad Henry; Joplin was appointed by Dem. Gov. David Walters; and Thornbrugh and Hudson were appointed by Rep. Gov. Mary Fallin. (See the Oklahoma Supreme Court handbook for 2015 for further biographical information.
Recently on Talk Radio 1170 KFAQ, Pat Campbell hosted a discussion on Oklahoma State Questions 780 and 781 with former State House Speaker Kris Steele, a proponent of the propositions, and Tulsa County District Attorney Steve Kunzweiler, who opposes them.
The more I listened to Steele's arguments in favor, the more confirmed I became in my opposition to Oklahoma State Question 780. To hear Steele talk, you'd think that drug addiction is something you get because the barista at Charbux forgot to wash his hands after sneezing. But common sense says that there's a volitional aspect to drug use and addiction, and penalties for possession may deter people from seeking to self-medicate in ways that are hard to cure.
Kunzweiler pointed out that sometimes drug possession is the only charge for which enough direct evidence exists to convict a suspected drug dealer. Prosecutors are happy to send addicts through drug court to help them deal with their problem instead of going to jail, but they need the statutory tools to go after the pushers. Making every instance of possession of every kind of controlled substance a misdemeanor takes a very effective tool away from prosecutors.
In a November 1, 2016, speech to pastors in Tulsa, U. S. Senator James Lankford likened Article II, Section 5, of the Oklahoma Constitution to a latent computer virus. Lankford warned that unless Oklahomans repeal that section by passing SQ 790, anti-religion litigants will be able to use the provision to block any partnership between state and local government and faith-based organizations in areas like foster care, adoption services, hospitals, and care for the homeless.
While I could take issue with the details of his recounting of the history of the Blaine Amendment and similar provisions in state constitutions, it is true that many of the enabling acts for new states required such provisions to be included in state constitutions, and it's also true that anti-Catholic-immigrant fear motivated the effort.
More importantly, Lankford's warning about the future in Oklahoma is spot on. The language in Article II, Section 5, prohibits even an indirect benefit to a sectarian institution from use of state funds or assets. While there are now a couple of precedents, one very recent -- Murrow Indian Orphans Home v. Childers (1946 OK 187) and Oliver v. Hofmeister (2016 OK 15) -- that seem to allow state payments to a religious institution if the state is being relieved of some financial obligation in return, there were grounds in the plain meaning of the words of Article II, Section 5, to rule the other way.
Oklahoma citizens benefit when organizations, driven by faith in the God who created us for good works, care for the needy. It reduces the burden on taxpayers when staff and clergy funded by church members join with volunteers to meet these needs. But the only way to ensure that this beneficial relationship can survive a future court challenge is to pass SQ 790 to eliminate an overly broad and inconsistently interpreted provision in our State Constitution.
Sen. Lankford is up for re-election, and if you appreciate the foresight and eloquence he applied to this issue, you'll want to join me in voting to send him back to Washington for a full six-year term.
Just a quick note to call your attention to a post at Sooner Politics. David Van Risseghem has gotten hold of an email that was purportedly sent by Oklahoma Democratic Party chairman Mark Hammons to party leaders and staffers, based on meetings with Democratic legislative leaders, about the party's media strategy during this election year. In a nutshell, the party is hoping Oklahoma voters forget how far-out in left field they are:
DO NOT ISSUE RELEASES ON THE FOLLOWING AND REMOVE FACEBOOK POSTS ON THE FOLLOWING:
A. Tax credits or tax solutions to the revenue shortfalls or methods to solve educational funding. Our leadership is letting this position evolve. No more comments on sale tax increases at present.
B. Sexual orientation bills, abortion, Planned Parenthood. Similarly, no gun control, 2d Amendment issues. No statements on farm/agricultural bills without House/Senate prior okay. There are a lot of bills on those issues. The Republican strategy is to try to nationalize the local races and our priority must be to focus only on the local issues outlined as 1-8 above. We may (and should) offer private support to opponents of these reactionary bills and access to what resources we can. However we can't fall into the Republic[an*] trap of making this Republican/Democrat issues. These have to be open for the candidates to make their own decisions so No ODP public statements or posts without House/Senate Caucus approval.
C. No Party statements of position on death penalty, marijuana issues. I know Connie supports these and that they are likely part of her campaign. We will not oppose or criticize - just can['t*] make them ODP issues at present.
Read David's story for the full text of the letter, including the eight issues that they think are winners.
Sometimes when a public figure's deviant behavior crosses over into criminal activity, the process of investigation turns up emails that point to a completely unrelated crime.
Last week we heard about Anthony Weiner's selfie problem leading to a search of his computer, leading to more of Hillary Clinton's emails, including many that weren't among those she turned over to the FBI. It was enough to prompt the FBI to reopen its investigation into Clinton Foundation corruption.
In May 2014, political consultant and lobbyist Chad Alexander was pulled over for driving erratically. His car was search, and he was busted for possession of 3.35 grams of cocaine and possession of a controlled substance (oxycodone) without a prescription.
Alexander is aligned with what I call the wheeler-dealer faction in Oklahoma politics (as opposed to the fair-dealers), the bunch that believes that government is about favor trading and politics is about which rival gang will get access to money and power.
Alexander is a consultant for Coalition for Oklahoma's Future, which raised large sums from corporations and individuals in 2012 to help Republican incumbents in the Oklahoma Legislature beat back tea party challengers.
Alexander was also working for Oklahomans for Public School Excellence (OPSE), a 501(c)(4) independent-expenditure group opposing Janet Barresi's reelection as State Superintendent and supporting her opponent, Joy Hofmeister. While there were communications hinting at illegal collusion between the Hofmeister campaign and OPSE, enough for the Oklahoma County DA's office to open an investigation, the affidavit by Chief Investigator Gary Eastridge says that forensic examination of Alexander's cell phones and computer in connection with his drug arrest turned up text messages and emails pertinent to the relationship between the Hofmeister campaign and OPSE.
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister has been charged by Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater with two felony counts -- accepting personal campaign contributions in excess of the law's limits and accepting corporate contributions. Additionally, Hofmeister and four people connected with her campaign -- campaign consultant Fount Holland, campaign consultant Stephanie Milligan, Cooperative Council for Oklahoma School Administration (CCOSA) Executive Director Steven Crawford, and Oklahoma Education Association (OEA) Executive Director Lela Odom -- have been charged with conspiracy to commit the two felonies, which charges are also felonies.
The affidavit includes a timeline of about 20 pages of selected text messages and emails, supplemented with information gathered from interviews with key participants, emphasizing that "these are but a small sampling of the documented communications."
When we set legal limits on how much an individual can give to a campaign and block corporate contributions, and when the outcome of elections often can lead to financial windfalls for connected businesses, money will look for other outlets to influence the election. Under the First Amendment, you have a right to spend your money to voice your opinion, but courts have ruled that government can limit how much of your money you can use in direct support of a candidate.
For those campaign finance limits to be meaningful, there can't be any coordination between a campaign supporting a candidate and independent groups seeking to influence the outcome. The two groups are like bridge partners. You can combine your knowledge of your partner's personality and strategy with the cards he actually plays to guess what else he might have in his hand and what he might play, but if he tells you what he has or you ask him to play a particular card, you've broken the rules.
(The interests of transparency would be better served by unlimited, but fully disclosed contributions.)
The legal process will determine whether all this rises to the level of illegal coordination, but even if no wrongdoing is found, the trail of communications reveals that influential political consultants, who have been involved in the campaigns of many of Oklahoma's top Republican executive and legislative officials, were in cahoots with groups that oppose reform of education in Oklahoma, groups that want lower-income kids to remain trapped in poor-performing schools with no way out. The OEA, state affiliate of the far-left National Education Association, and CCOSA want no change to education in Oklahoma other than more money for our existing system. These emails and texts appear to show that Joy Hofmeister was a Manchurian Candidate, recruited and backed by the teachers' union and the school administrators' lobby, to ensure that nothing threatens their gravy train.
Speaking of gravy train, it was interesting to see American Fidelity Assurance Company mentioned as the source of corporate contributions mentioned in the indictment:
BETWEEN APRIL, 2013 AND NOVEMBER, 2014 THE CRIME OF KNOWINGLY ACCEPTING CORPORATE CONTRIBUTIONS WAS COMMITTED IN OKLAHOMA COUNTY, OKLAHOMA BY JOY LYNN HOFMEISTER, A CANDIDATE FOR SUPERINTENDENT OF PUBLIC INSTRUCTION, WHO THROUGH COORDINATION WITH OKLAHOMANS FOR PUBLIC SCHOOL EXCELLENCE, KNOWINGLY ACCEPTED CORPORATE MONETARY OR IN-KIND CONTRIBUTIONS, SPECIFICALLY MONETARY OR IN KIND CONTRIBUTIONS FROM AMERICAN FIDELITY ASSURANCE COMPANY, IN VIOLATION OF TITLE 21 § 187.2 OF THE OKLAHOMA STATUTES....
Lela Odom advised in her interview that OEA and American Fidelity have had a 50 year relationship. OEA has helped AF build their business by endorsing their "salary income protection policy".
Here's how it looks to me: An insurance company has a favorable deal with the teacher's union, and it's in the company's financial interest if the teacher's union continues to be in a favorable situation for maintaining and growing its membership, so the company gives to help elect the teacher's union's preferred candidate. A state that offered meaningful school choice including private schools and charter schools will have fewer unionized teachers, and the favored insurance company will have to find another way to build its customer base. That's my speculative impression of the situation, based on what I read in this file.
I encourage you to read through the 32-page indictment of Joy Hofmeister, Fount Holland, Lela Odom, Stephanie Milligan, and Steven Crawford for yourself. I've taken the scan that KJRH posted with their story and put it through optical character recognition to make it easier to search.
When the state had a revenue failure earlier this year, there was a lot of blame-casting -- "see what happens when you let the conservatives run the state!" Those of us who are conservatives will tell you that we're not in charge here; the state is run by the wheeler-dealers, backed by the Chamber Pots, with campaigns run by the likes of Fount Holland and Chad Alexander. Ask Jason Murphey and Gary Jones about the roadblocks that have been put in the way of their efforts to improve government transparency. Ask the OCPA how much cooperation they got from "conservative" officials for their plan to prioritize spending so that teachers could get a raise without a tax increase. Oklahoma has replaced one set of legal looters with another.
This narrative has replayed itself over and over. The big money often wins the GOP primary and becomes the nominee. If the liberal lobby groups can buy the GOP nomination, they really don't care if the Democrat loses, because they already own the elective office. The Hofmeister election is exactly what that looks like.
After the jump, excerpts from the indictment.
For your convenience, here is a summary of my recommendations for the seven state questions on the 2016 Oklahoma general election ballot. The descriptions are not meant to make my entire argument in three words; they simply serve as a reminder of the topic of the question. The right-hand column contains a couple of words to describe the type of question: Whether the question affects the Constitution or state statutes, and whether it was initiated by the legislature or by initiative petition. Links lead to the article in which I discuss the question at length:
|SQ 776||YES||Death penalty protection||Constitutional, legislative|
|SQ 777||NO||"Right to Farm" amendment||Constitutional, legislative|
|SQ 779||NO||Permanent sales tax for schools, colleges, career tech||Constitutional, initiative|
|SQ 780||NO||Drug possession always a misdemeanor||Statutory, initiative|
|SQ 781||NO||SQ 780 "savings" fund||Statutory, initiative|
|SQ 790||YES||Repeal anti-1st Amendment language in Oklahoma constitution||Constitutional, legislative|
|SQ 792||NO||Replace bad alcohol laws with worse alcohol laws||Constitutional, legislative|